President and Sister Tanner invite BYU-Hawaii students to dedicate themselves to the temple

On Thanksgiving Day of 1919, the Laie Hawaii Temple was dedicated by President Heber J. Grant. After three more dedicatory sessions spanning Nov. 27-30, President Grant led a special and unique meeting in the temple specifically for children — 235 children gathered with the prophet to sing “Who’s On The Lord’s Side?”

After the singing, President Grant asked the children to raise their hand if they were, as they had just sang, on the Lord’s side — every child’s hand was raised. 

“In the other meetings the temple was dedicated,” said BYU-Hawaii President John S. Tanner, recalling the event in the opening devotional of the school’s fall semester on Tuesday, Sept. 10. “In this meeting the children dedicated themselves in the temple. … I don’t ask you to raise your hands publicly, but I ask you to resolve in your souls this day to stay on the Lord’s side.”

Inspired by the upcoming 100th anniversary of the dedication of the Laie Hawaii Temple, President Tanner and his wife, Sister Susan W. Tanner, centered their message to the students on the temple. They invited them to consider how the temple is a symbol of their education at BYU-Hawaii.

President Tanner said he felt the importance of the linkage between the university and the temple on his first day in Laie.

“That morning as I looked back toward the McKay Building and up toward the temple, I felt a Heaven-sent prompting that BYU–Hawaii must remain connected spiritually to the temple,” he said. “It, too, must be a house of learning and a house of light.”

He said the temple there has been part of the university’s institutional identity before the school even existed. 

President John S. Tanner talks to a student at the BYU - Hawaii Devotional on September 10, 2019.
President John S. Tanner talks to a student at the BYU – Hawaii Devotional on September 10, 2019. Credit: Trisha Panzo

“I am persuaded that President McKay later insisted that the college be located in Laie in no small part so that it would be next to the temple,” President Tanner said. “He regarded college and temple as complementary elements of the gathering here. In Laie, members of the Church from the Pacific and Asia could be both educated and endowed.”

President Tanner chose the phrase, “A house of learning, a house of light,” to be on his presidential medallion. His reasoning: The university can fulfill its mission only to the degree that it remains worthy of its proximity to the temple.

“And this depends on us,” he said. “It depends on each of us being temple worthy, covenant-keeping disciples: obedient, gospel-grounded, chaste and consecrated.”

President Tanner shared four principles students can live by to make the school a house of learning and light: 

  1. Students must be worthy and clean. “To learn by the Spirit, we must live worthy of the Spirit,” he said.
  2. Students must learn by study and by faith, emphasizing that students should learn diligently, teach diligently and seek diligently.
  3. Students should learn everything they can, for all truth belongs to God. “One would be hard-pressed to find a better description of the effect of the temple endowment than this description of true education,” he said.
  4. Students and teachers should teach and love each other. He shared that one of his favorite experiences in the Laie temple is being served and blessed by student temple workers. 

“I plead with you to stay on the Lord’s side of the line,” he said, referencing the children’s song in the temple and the devotional’s opening hymn. “I ask you not only to live the Honor Code, though I expect this. I ask you to live your baptismal and temple covenants. … Only as we all do so will this university become the house of learning and house of light it is intended to be.”

In Sister Tanner’s talk, she shared her deep connection to the Laie Hawaii Temple through her Grandpa and Grandma Winder, who served as missionaries in Hawaii at the time of the temple dedication. Each spoke at one of the four dedicatory services. 

Sister Tanner quoted from her grandmother’s brief remarks — “I pray the Lord to bless each and every one of us to keep our bodies clean that we may be able to do work in this house” — and used it as a guide for her message that one’s body is a personal temple. 

Sister Susan W. Tanner speaks to students at the BYU - Hawaii Devotional on September 10, 2019.
Sister Susan W. Tanner speaks to students at the BYU – Hawaii Devotional on September 10, 2019. Credit: Trisha Panzo

“They must be ‘clean’ – respected, protected and appreciated as houses of learning and houses of light,” Sister Tanner said.

Sister Tanner asked listeners to consider the many great things their bodies can experience despite imperfections that abound in everyone and invited them to concentrate on the ways their bodies are a blessing.

After citing “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” Sister Tanner emphasized that receiving a body was part of God’s great plan of happiness.

“We knew that our bodies would be in the image of God and that our bodies would house our spirits,” Sister Tanner said. “We also understood that our bodies would be subject to pain, illness, disabilities and temptation. But we were willing to accept these challenges because we knew that only with spirit and element — or body — inseparably connected could we progress to become like our Heavenly Father and receive a fulness of joy.”

After underscoring that happiness consists of having a body, she then shared Joseph Smith’s teaching that the devil has no body, which is his punishment.

“He tempts many to defile this great gift of the body through unchastity, immodesty, self-indulgence and addictions,” Sister Tanner said. “He seduces some to despise their bodies; others he tempts to worship their bodies. In either case, he entices the world to regard the body merely as an object. Today, I want to counter those lies with my testimony that the body is a gift to be treated with gratitude and respect.”

Sister Susan W. Tanner hugs a student at the BYU - Hawaii Devotional on September 10, 2019.
Sister Susan W. Tanner hugs a student at the BYU – Hawaii Devotional on September 10, 2019. Credit: Trisha Panzo

Sister Tanner taught that if people treated and regarded their bodies as temples, they would be strengthened to keep the law of chastity, the Word of Wisdom and other commandments. They would avoid Satan’s snares and be vigilant in keeping their bodies clean.

Keeping one’s body clean means spiritually, mentally and physically. As a teenager, Sister Tanner knew the importance of caring for you body, but her mother also taught her what she called “a higher law.” 

“You must do everything you can to make your appearance pleasing, but the minute you walk out the door, forget yourself and start concentrating on others,” her mother would say to her.

When her mother said those words, she was teaching her selflessness and charity — the pure love of Christ. 

“When we become other-oriented, or selfless, we develop an inner beauty of spirit that glows in our outward appearance,” Sister Tanner said. “This is how we make ourselves in the Lord’s image rather than the world’s and receive His image in our countenances. Our bodily temples become lights for others.”